I really don't have a standard of comparison for Hatoful Boyfriend, as I don't have any other experience of playing Japanese (style) dating sims. I could try some of the others from the Humble Bundle now have them, which of course is part of the point of the HB system. Anyway, I would classify it as closer to interactive fiction than a game. I played through once, just straight, not saving alternate versions of branching story line, and came to a particular ending. And there definitely are hints of an interesting SF dystopia in the background and worldbuilding, and I'm intrigued by the mystery of why there is a high school for birds, mostly pigeons, and why your explicitly human character is studying there.
But I don't know if I can be bothered to play through the game lots of times to gather together all the little hints and piece together what's going on. Partly cos the game isn't very fun qua game, there seem to be very few meaningful choices. It's nearly all, should I go to the library or the sports field, with no particular reason to pick either. I think this also reflects the reason I've never really got into interactive fiction: as a fast reader, I find it frustrating to have to click and wait for page loads before I can find out what happens in the story. And choose-your-own-adventure type books are physically clunky, but you can still read them nearly as fast as linear books and explore multiple branches of the story if you want to.
I think my best bet is to read internet spoilers, much as I'm intrigued by the idea of using dating sim games as a vehicle to tell an interesting story.
It's a bit of a stretch to call this related, but ghoti recently gave me a very cool present, the Japanese themed game Machi Koro. She described it as a kawaii cross between Dominion and Settlers, and it's hard to imagine a better encapsulation of what the game is. We played through once, with jack, and I think it's possibly not quite as good as either Dominion or Settlers, but given those are two of my favourite games there's still a lot of room to find it enjoyable. I like the way that there are a few simple but strategically critical decisions, such as, is it better to get good coverage of all the possible dice outcomes or to focus on lots of cards of the same type so you more rarely get a lot of income in a burst? I like the mechanism where some cards allow you to steal from other players, which relatively disadvantages hoarding based strategies. I think that probably helps to avoid the frustrating, Monopoly-like situation where one player gets an unbeatable lead early on and you have to wait a long time to actually confirm their victory. (In fact I wouldn't be surprised if Monopoly as well as Settlers is somewhere in the game's ancestry; you're using income to buy cards which then generate more income). And I like the way that playing victory cards introduce distinct new stages in the game, and generally it's not mind-blowingly original but it does what it does well.
Board Game Geek forums have a lot of people saying, this is a good game for kids or an introduction to the genre for non-gamers, but doesn't play well for people who are in the habit of Eurogames with a lot of analytical thinking involved. And maybe that's true, it's possible that the game will have limited replayability, though I believe there are expansions that work more like Dominion where you select a subset of the cards for a starting deck. But I personally like good simple games; I don't mind if there's an element of luck as long as the outcome is somewhat related to the decisions players make, and although I like complex thinky games (Agricola remains one of my favourites, for example), I don't exclusively like that kind.
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